The Library of Congress has launched a series of exhibitions, events and programs around the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The « Shall Not Be Denied » exhibition was launched on June 4, 2019. It is the « centerpiece exhibition » and explains the long movement and campaign for women’s right to vote. This movement lasted for about seven decades, during which women created organizations, lobbies, undertook parades, petitions, lectures, and even faced imprisonment.
The Library has an important collection of personal papers of important women of the movement such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Staton, or Mary Church Terrell. It also holds the archives of various organizations such as the National Woman’s Party or the National American Woman Suffrage Association and many others. These archives are exhibited in order to inform the general public about the various struggles women faced to obtain the same rights as men.
You can explore the exhibition online, on The Library of Congress website (https://www.loc.gov/exhibitions/women-fight-for-the-vote/about-this-exhibition/%23explore-the-exhibit). It is divided into five main sections, each one presenting one part of the movement’s struggle. Each section displays items that show archives from the period. The first one is entitled « Seneca Falls and Building a Movement, 1776-1890. » It explores the origins of the movement from the Declaration of Independence, which brought the idea of equality to the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention and the creation of the National American Woman Suffrage (NAWSA) in 1890.
The second section goes from the 1890 onwards and is entitled « New Tactics for a New Generation, 1890-1915. » It focuses on the victories achieved by suffragists before the turn of the 20th century. It explores the strategies used by these activists until the 1913 first national suffrage parade.
The third section is entitled « Confrontation, Sacrifice, and the Struggle for Democracy, 1916-1917. » It explores new issues, as the « state-by-state strategy was taking too long. » Differences remained between the NAWSA and the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Some women stopped campaigning for suffrage as the First World War progressed but others, such as NWP members, did not support the war effort. The section ends in 1917 with the arrest of suffragists who were picketing in front of the White House.
The fourth section is entitled « Hear Us Roar: Victory, 1918 and Beyond. » It explores the strategies that led to the 19th Amendment, i.e. civil disobedience by suffragists, the strategic lobbying of Congress and women’s wartime contributions. During the 1920 elections, women were finally able to vote. The section explains that the NAWSA transformed into the League of Women Voters to continue other fights such as « education, citizen participation, legal, economic, and educational advancement of women. »
Finally, the very last section, « More to the Movement » gives additional information. The items of this section show the diversity of women who participated in this movement: white women, women of color and Native American women. It was a movement for all women regardless of their color or of their social class. However, the fight continued for women of color after 1920.
If you want to prepare your visit to the exhibition, you can buy the special companion to the exhibition entitled Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote. You can access the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Shall-Not-Be-Denied-Women/dp/1978808917
For further information you can access the following links: